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4 Current Trends in Restaurant Takeout & Delivery Behavior

Off-premises ordering slowed this summer, but holiday season may trigger another spike. Read more from our partnership with The Infatuation.

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When we last surveyed diners about their takeout and delivery habits, in June 2021, they were cautiously optimistic about the state of the pandemic. They had not yet reduced their online ordering frequency, but they felt safer going out into the world, which suggested they would start dining out more often.

As vaccines became widely available and states began to eliminate indoor dining restrictions and mask mandates, diners made good on that suggestion. However, the rise of the Delta variant threw a wrench in this summer’s recovery, leading many states to reimpose mask mandates and many restaurants to impose new restrictions of their own.

What effect has the past few months had on diners? As winter approaches, how do they plan to utilize holiday meal delivery? And what can restaurants do to adjust to their preferences?

To answer those questions, we have partnered with The Infatuation for the third installment of our Restaurant Delivery Consumer Trend Report. The Q3 survey features insights from 1,034 U.S. diners, ages 18+, who dined out at least once per week before the pandemic. Click here to view the full report and read below for four key takeaways.

1. Takeout & Delivery Orders Decreased Over the Summer, but Signs Suggest a Rebound

  • 76% of diners order takeout/delivery at least once per week, down from 85% in the June survey

  • 64% of diners anticipate ordering more takeout/delivery over the next few months, due to the Delta variant

Why It Matters: The decrease in takeout and delivery orders occurred between June and September, suggesting it was driven by warm weather and the first wave of loosened dining restrictions. The pent-up demand for people to go out and gather, which occurs every summer, was supercharged by nearly 18 months of lockdowns. However, with winter approaching and diners voicing concerns about the Delta variant, takeout and delivery volume will likely rise again during holiday season. We will learn more about the long-term outlook of takeout and delivery in 2022, but for now restaurants should prepare for another spike.

2. A Growing Majority of Diners Dislike Third-Party Ordering Apps

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Why It Matters: During the six months of our survey, no diner attitude has changed more than their preference for third-party ordering apps. Half of diners who preferred the convenience of these apps in March no longer prefer it — which is crucial because when diners decide how to order, convenience is the biggest motivator. The user experience of third-party apps hasn’t changed during this time period, so it appears diners are coming around to direct online ordering. Restaurants investing in better online ordering platforms has contributed to that, and as long as they continue to prioritize those platforms, they should continue to poach diners from high-commission marketplaces.

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3. Convenience & Safety Drive Holiday Dining Decisions

  • 49% of diners say they will order takeout/delivery this holiday season because it’s more convenient than cooking, the highest percentage of any motivator

  • 39% of diners say they will order takeout/delivery this holiday season because the Delta variant makes them nervous to dine out, the second-highest percentage of any motivator

Why It Matters: Understanding how customers feel can help restaurants plan their holiday strategies. Based on this data, holiday catering packages that diners can easily heat and serve should be popular, while holiday meal kits that require assembly could have less demand. Restaurants can also use this information to shape their holiday marketing tactics. For example, an email to past customers can acknowledge and empathize with their health concerns before promoting online ordering as a way to support the restaurant from home.

4. Takeout & Delivery Orders Begin to Increase Later in the Week

  • 39% of diners order takeout/delivery on Fridays and 24% order on Saturdays, far higher than other days of the week

  • Wednesday and Thursday are the most popular weeknights for takeout/delivery, nearly twice as popular as Monday and Tuesday

Why It Matters: The survey paints a clear picture, and BentoBox restaurants agree: From June to September 2021, online ordering revenue begins to spike on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then peaks on Fridays and Saturdays. Prior to this summer, Tuesday ordering revenue was in line with that of Wednesday and Thursday, but diner behavior appears to have shifted. Knowing this, restaurants can be more strategic with the timing of direct online ordering promotions and email marketing.

The Restaurant Delivery Consumer Trend Report is a quarterly survey of more than 1,000 adult U.S. diners. Click here to read the report in its entirety, and here to view trends from the previous installment.

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